January Already?

Yes, with the beginning of winter and the holiday season almost upon us, the January 2018 issue of Stereophile has started dropping into mailboxes, being displayed on newsstand shelves, and being downloaded to tablets. And it is, even if we say so ourselves, one heck of an issue, with GoldenEar's Triton Reference speaker on its cover and reviewed inside by John Atkinson. JA also kicks off the issue with a look at the controversy raised by MQA. Controversy? Also in the January Stereophile, Jim Austin examines the time-domain performance of MQA-equipped DACs and one Internet troll is already offering a $10 bounty for anyone who debunks one of Jim's findings!

And the Triton Reference is not the only speaker reviewed in our January issue: at the high end of the price spectrum Jon Iverson reviews the Spirit update for Vivid's highly regarded G1 Giya, and at the other end Ken Micallef writes about Quad' S-2 bookshelf design. In between, Herb Reichert lives with Totems' Model One Signature and Jim Austin does likewise with the Alta Hestia Platinum. Other reviews included Jason Victor Serinus on Aurender's MQA-capable A10 Server/DAC and Mikey Fremer on the Air Force III turntable and Graham tonearm, while Kalman Rubinson tries out multichannel control devices. And Art Dudley goes fly fishing and listens to Irving Berlin’s gramophone.

When you are done shoveling this weekend's snow, settle down in your chair, sip a glass of Chardonnay, and see what we all have to say.

tonykaz's picture

MQA is good for the Audio Industry.

How could compressing those big empty files to RedBook be a bad thing?

Science and Engineering will triumph again, just like it always has.

21st Century Tony in Michigan

spacehound's picture

Stereophile has already demonstrated totally 'over the top' bias in favour of MQA on several occasions.

Now Stereophile calls a music professional who isn't impressed by MQA a 'troll'. What is more, MQA has already been thoroughly debunked by both mathematics and logic.

The 'logic' is the easier to explain to unqualified people (EG the entire Stereophile staff and most of its readers) so here goes:


It can do two thing only (though the first one is a 'null result'):
1) Nothing. In which case it isn't worth having.
2) Alter the original signal. Which is a move away from high fidelity (high accuracy) so is a degradation.

Furthermore, the MQA people keep moving the goalposts.
1) It was to preserve '44.1' fidelity in a lower STREAMING bandwidth.
With ever increasing internet speeds that is no longer needed so it is no longer mentioned.
2) It was to 'authenticate' the studio equipment. No major studio can be bothered to follow this process, and the MQA people anyway don't have the capability to do it, so that's vanished. In one case (Brian Lucey) they have applied the 'MQA' process to some of his recordings without his or the artists permission, without access to his equipment, and despite his publicly published disapproval. That's doing the OPPOSITE of 'authentication'.
3) It was to 'certify' the end user's DAC by the MQA people actually MEASURING it using a sample from the factory. They aren't actually doing that, they are just providing a broad selection of 'loose' filters to the DAC manufacturer and letting him pick the ones he likes.

So MQA has moved TOTALLY away from its original stated purposes and is now pure BS.

John Atkinson's picture
spacehound wrote:
Stereophile has already demonstrated totally 'over the top' bias in favour of MQA on several occasions.

I am not sure to what you are referring. We have reported the principles of operation of MQA, have examined some of the claims made for it, and are continuing to look at them in Jim Austin's series of articles starting in this issue.

When it comes to sound quality, we have reported what we hear, just as we do with anything we audition for the magazine. I also think it fair to point out that some of the most vocal critics of MQA have, by their own admission, never actually auditioned any MQA-encoded files or compared them with the PCM originals, as we have done.

spacehound wrote:
Now Stereophile calls a music professional who isn't impressed by MQA a 'troll'.

I feel that an anonymous poster on an internet forum who offers cash money to anyone who can "debunk" an article in Stereophile is by definition a troll. :-)

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

spacehound's picture

I accept that you report what you (claim to) hear. As many others don't hear the same thing, whether it is actually real or not for ANY of the reporters is in grave doubt.
That's the problem with ALL subjective opinions on audio, whichever 'side' the listener is on. So we have to measure stuff. At least that will tell you which file, replay equipment or whatever is the closest to 'high fidelity' rather than the usual "I personally like this one best" be it accurate or not.

Unfortunately the MQA people seem to be unwilling to give the public demonstrations where both the MQA version and the non-MQA version are actually known to be from the same original.

And one music provider, 2L, appears to have deliberately muddied the waters in its indecipherable descriptions of what it IS providing for comparisons. One file may provide an 'original' non-MQA version, but the MQA version's provenance is either something else or it is impossible to tell from their description whether it is or not.

The term 'Troll' means whatever the accuser wants it to mean, we all know that.

As for the guy offering the ten dollars, I thi it's a bit dopey. More important, he is accusing Mr Austin before he has even seen what he has written.
However YOUR MAGAZINE has a supposedly 'anonymous' guy posting pro-MQA views and criticising anti-MQA views on the same forum and in the same threads. We all know who he is and although not a direct employee of Stereophile he is a contributor, and no doubt he gets paid for his articles.

So it's a bit rich for you to call the other guy a Troll :)

John Atkinson's picture
spacehound wrote:
Unfortunately the MQA people seem to be unwilling to give the public demonstrations where both the MQA version and the non-MQA version are actually known to be from the same original.

Not correct. Peter McGrath of Wilson Audio has performed such comparisons at retailers and shows that are open to the public. Unless you are going to claim, like the editor of another magazine that if he didn't attend such a comparison it never happened.

spacehound wrote:
YOUR MAGAZINE has a supposedly 'anonymous' guy posting pro-MQA views and criticising anti-MQA views on the same forum and in the same threads.

Also not correct. Stereophile has no connection with the anonymous poster's comments. And note that Stereophile's team always post using their real names.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

spacehound's picture

You have no connection with his comments as he is not commenting in his 'official' capacity.

And while he is posting with a 'fake' name it is closely connected to his real name and he has made no secret (from the context and from words such as "our" testing) of who he actually is.

But ok, he is no more or less entitled to his comments than I am entitled to mine.

FAR more important is MQAs demonstrably false claim of 'authentication', as in Brian Lucey's publicly published example.
The merits (if any) of MQA are arguable but 100% falsities are not.

It is obvious WHY they are doing it.
'Authentication' might well be possible when starting afresh with new material, but it most certainly isn't on 'mass conversions' such as Warners catalog.

The whole product was originally marketed on the basis of this 'authentification'. Now, in practice it's gone.

vmartell's picture

While not (for the moment, BTW) commenting on the MQA claims, I disagree - Mr. Atkinson - where you see a troll, I see a citizen exercising free speech. "Troll" is an insult - albeit at mild one - and I see no reason for an industry person to immediately resort to insults. [flame deleted by John Atkinson]
While the tone of RT66indierock might bother Mr. Atkinson, the claims are worth of investigation.


vmartell's picture

Mr. Atkinson - while this is your forum and it's obvious you can moderate as your will, I definitely take exception that my explanation of why Mr. Atkinson is part of the industry - I did mention that an *independent* part of it; the rest is not an insult or flame; just a necessary part of any industry specific coverage. I do suspect that the internet has suggested that Mr. Atkinson is not independent - I have not. I do believe that the combativeness of the internet reaction has made Mr. Atkinson quick to react in a manner that is, somewhat disproportionate.

I understand that over the years, the internet comments to Mr. Atkinson have created "hot-buttons" that make him react. I am sorry about that.

[meta discussion deleted by John Atkinson]

John Atkinson's picture
vmartell wrote:
I definitely take exception that my explanation of why Mr. Atkinson is part of the industry - I did mention that an *independent* part of it; the rest is not an insult or flame; just a necessary part of any industry specific coverage. I do suspect that the internet has suggested that Mr. Atkinson is not independent - I have not. I do believe that the combativeness of the internet reaction has made Mr. Atkinson quick to react in a manner that is, somewhat disproportionate.

You are correct, I am tired of the name calling and suggestions that Stereophile has dirty hands that seem to be endemic on the Web. Yes, there are ventures that operate on a "pay-for-play" basis but I can assure you that Stereophile is not one of them. I explained our business model in my tribute to my mentor John Crabbe at www.stereophile.com/asweseeit/communities/index.html:

"If you tell the truth about components you review, there will always be a small percentage of companies at any one time who are not advertising in your pages. But if you publish the truth, you will have a good magazine. And if you have a good magazine, you will have readers. And as long as you have readers, disgruntled advertisers will eventually return. But if you don't tell the truth, you won't have a good magazine. And if you don't have a good magazine, you won't have readers, at least not for long. And if you don't have readers, you won't have advertisers."

And please note that I have very little patience with those who want to "argue with the ref."

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

vmartell's picture

Recently, over at computer audiophile, there was a thread about civility - and it seems that unfortunately, the subject cannot be argued in a civil way anymore.
The "too little patience" comment feels as too aggressive to someone that has been nothing but civil.

Maybe I am being sensitive, but I do believe a point can be made without being bellicose.

Please don't get me wrong, I understand why, regardless of my thoughts on the subject (MQA, btw). As I stated in my posts, right or wrong, the barrage is relentless. It would make me bonkers. But I do believe that if we are to go back to civility in the discussion, it falls on the thought leaders to adhere to that and to set the example. Let your writing do the talking.

[meta discussion deleted by John Atkinson]

Thanks for your time - I am a Stereophile subscriber (electronic, thru Google Newstand, so if you don't see my name in your subscriber list, that might be the reason) - and I enjoy the magazine even if I disagree sometimes with what is written. I am happy to pay for it - I think that is civility too.


RichT's picture

Spacehound, leaving aside your personal attacks, I'm afraid you're incorrect in pretty much everything you say.

MQA doesn't claim to 'add genuine information'. It's 'deblurring' claims to remove predictable distortions imposed by the converters. So the rest of your post on this is incorrect.

Altering the signal is not necessarily a degradation. Lossless compression is not a degradation I'm sure you'd agree. MQA does reduce the bit depth of a 24 bit signal, leading to an increase in noise, but this is almost always below the level of noise in the original recording and I've yet to see any evidence that it's ever audible. The first fold is 'lossless' apart from this, so recordings up to 96kHz are preserved completely, apart from inaudible noise.

Re goalposts

1) You misunderstand the benefits on MQA to streamers. It means that they can have one deliverable that can be decoded at whatever resolution the customer's decoder supports. Plus reduced bandwidth is still very valuable in terms of cost to streaming companies, for mobile customers, and for the billions of people who have slow internet.
2) What about the material released by the majors on Tidal? That has MQA authentication.

I don't see that there has been any fundamental move from it's original objectives.

spacehound's picture

I forgot 'Deblurring'. That is yet another thing not in the original claims, but quickly invented when the original claims were made pointless by ever increasing internet speeds. There is no measurable evidence that it happens anyway. And if it exists it WOULD be measurable quite easily.

And most of those 'billions' can't even afford a donkey, let alone a Tidal subscription, a phone or HiFi :)

Your numbered points.
1) The BBC is already doing that using 'the agreed international standard' method on its six national radio internet channels and plans to extend it to all its channels. You don't need MQA to do it.
2) I have already shown how MQA's claims of 'authentication', though maybe genuine at first, have now been totally 'thrown out of the window' by the MQA company itself.

RichT's picture

Your comment about the billions not being able to afford a donkey - all I can say is, have a look at how common mobile phones are in the world, it might surprise you. You are arguing against yourself too - if people can’t afford the technology now, as they get richer, they are not going to get high speed internet soon, as it’s more expensive.

Deblurring was always part of the package from MQA, right from the very first presentations.

The fact that the BBC does this in one way doesn’t invalidate the benefits of MQA doing it another way.

spacehound's picture

So if they don't have the bandwidth why not use FLAC? It's a more efficient compression method than MQA (or MQA later compressed with FLAC), so uses less bandwidth, and is also lossless, which MQA isn't, as they have now admitted, though they falsely claimed it was lossless initially.

What 'blur' does it remove? Technical details please.

It's not the BBC, which is just an 'early adopter', it's the world. And it's an agreed standard, NOT a 'proprietary' one, and it's free. And it isn't subject to 'non disclosure' requirements, as MQA is.
Nor do you have to buy a new DAC or get some 'upgrade' done.

Further, it has been shown beyond all doubt that the studio 'authentification' they claim is NOT being performed.

(Always remember, it is MQA that is making the claims, not any of us. So the onus it on THEM to show us that it works. And as it has resulted in more discussion than anything else for a very long time not even DIFFERENCES can be clear, let alone improvements.)

corrective_unconscious's picture

MQA does not claim this, but feel free to cite the imaginary place where your fake claim on behalf of MQA was made. Be specific:


spacehound's picture

I never said it was their claim.

And it isn't a "claim" anyway, it's a fact.

And the original file will be in PCM (or DSD).

1) MQA 'Folding' creates aliases that were not in the original. That's creating false data.

2) MQA results in a lower bit depth than the original. That's data lost. So it is 'lossy'.

3) MQA reduces the volume in the approx. 16-20KHz range. So boosting it back to the original level in the MQA playback process produces noise that wasn't in the original.

That's three degradations.
So it isn't the 'Master' it started with. So it is neither the master nor is it authentic. 'Authenticating' an apple when it's actually an orange doesn't turn it into an apple.

corrective_unconscious's picture


No one except deranged you made any such claim about MQA - not its creators, not the press, not licensees, not end users. So it is not necessary for you to debunk a claim which is fictional and only emanates from you in the first place. You are arguing a gibberish non point, as usual.

spacehound's picture

...taking the MQA Kool-aid.

My statement is well known among HiFi manufacturers, magazine writers, and those few HiFi enthusiasts who have a clue. It has also been used in advertising material from Linn and Naim, who are far more successful than Meridian and the MQA company.

I didn't invent it myself, it is not a product of my 'originality' or imagination.

You obviously don't understand how the statement applies to MQA. I will put in simple separate phrases.

1) MQA loses information. Even Stuart himself eventually admitted it is a lossy process though initially he denied it.
2) So: Information is lost.
3) MQA, in its 'folding' process adds aliasing that was not there initially.
4) Aliasing is information. But it is 'fake' information.
5) MQA does the same for noise. It loses some of the upper (but still below 20KHz so nominally audible) treble.
6) In it's later treble recovery it boosts that treble back again. Adding a level of noise that wasn't there initially.
7) Increased noise is also information of course.

So we have two instances of my statement. Information is lost and non-genuine information is added.

John Atkinson's picture
spacehound wrote:
Now Stereophile calls a music professional who isn't impressed by MQA a 'troll'.

FYI: the person I referred to as a "troll," who posts as "rt66indierock" on several Internet forums, may work for record companies but by his own admission yesterday is actually an accountant, not an audio engineer. He may hold and express strong opinions on audio matters but they are, almost by definition, lay opinions.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

spacehound's picture

Have checked after my notification of your post I see his recent "admission" as you choose to call it.

So yes, calling him "lay" is fine. But that doesn't make him a 'troll'.

Particularly as his 'technical' opinions have been demonstrated to be fact by the measurements of others. Remember, there are a vast number of people outside the music business who are every bit as capable of making measurements of electronic stuff as the relatively few within it.

And as the type of measurements which show up the various inaccuracies/losses/damaging additions that MQA introduces have so far been carefully avoided by the two major US magazines it is those which could fairly be described as doing the 'trolling'. (Not that I like the term, which is why I have put it in quotes.)

JRT's picture

MQA is a flawed solution (see Bruno Putzeys' expert commentary) to an increasingly archaic problem (compression). Supporting MQA in any way undermines better non-proprietary technology, and paying for MQA is like hiring someone to rob you. No thanks.

JRT's picture

How about a review of some high performance "pro-sumer" grade equipment, AD/DA converters with headphone amplifiers, maybe a comparison of the relatively new RME ADI-2 Pro and the older Lynx Studio Hilo, etc.? Those are no more out of alignment with the magazine than were tape decks decades ago.

Glotz's picture

Seems like the only time you have something to say is when you're trashing MQA and insulting staff. You're also on TAS' website spewing similar vitriol (for years) for anyone who has a job listening to and reviewing audio. Get some class dude.

You create arguments that you answer for yourself, and that would make you guilty of the very things you claim. There's a word for that.

"Ever-increasing internet speeds? What garbage internet marketing are you reading? Bandwidths will continue to be limited by immense streaming traffic and the demand to have multiple devices operating and streaming at once.

Why offer $10 for debunking MQA? How does that interest anyone? That alone proves that whoever offered it can't argue effectively the claim they are making.

If limiting the amount of spurious garbage within Red-Book CD's design can be improved and other designers feel it is worthwhile for their products, that is their decision. It would appear that several audio publications also agree with the decision of those designers, listening to the newest iterations of their products, and not those in Stereophile necessarily. It is up to the very engaged consumers of those products to make up their minds. Do you really think that audiophiles with large investments in mind would take Stereophile's claims as gospel, and not compare to similar offerings by non-MQA designers?

The market will bear what it feels like bearing!

spacehound's picture

....and only ever made a small number of posts.
Why? TAS has become a joke. Even the biggest UK importer of the highest priced US equipment no longer mentions it. It used to quote it in most of its advertisements.
At least Stereophile has a respected and long experienced person as editor. TAS has nobody.

Internet speeds? My service provider has gone from its original 40 Mbs to 200 Mbs in three years and is now talking of 500 Mbs somewhen in 2018. All at no increased cost other than 'inflation'.

As for the 'developing countries', which comprises most people on the planet, they can't even afford a Tidal subscription, let alone anything to play it on.

I agree that the 10 dollar offering is rather silly. But the guy IS in the music trade andDOES know what he is talking about. And at leaat one other 'record producer' (Brian Lucey) has made similar comments about the MQA ''authentication' nonsense - they falsely claim it on some of his productions, even though he actively said 'No way'.

If you know anything about Meridian, the parent of MQA, you will know that it is a NOTHING in its own country, never has been, and has never made a profit. It's products and Stuarts designs range from 'disastrous' (Lecson) to 'expensive but not outstanding in any way' (everything else). The failure of Sooloos caused many of its more competent employees to become unemployed and the result is Roon, which at least has some market traction, which Meridian has never had.

I strongly suspect that Richemont, a Swiss 'luxury house', its fairly recent new owners, who probably regret their purchase, has told Meridian to "come up with something or be closed down". MQA is the result.

I have a fairly large investment in Audio - mostly dCS, Naim, and Tannoy . Of course I don't take this stuff as gospel. But Stereophile and the UK 'HiFi News and Record Review' HAVE influenced my decisions.

corrective_unconscious's picture

Does Grail Loudspeakers exist anywhere in any serious way but on social media and in that "Stereophile" ad? The ad and website, proper, mostly consist of efforts to get your name and email and snail mail address. (I didn't check the facebook page.) It seems to fit with some previous ads in "Stereophile" which never amounted to anything - one a kind of parody of sort of the Carver Amazing loudspeaker and another a kind of parody of sort of a von Schweikert speaker or maybe another a kind of parody of sort of a Glacier Audio loudspeaker. They (one of them, anyway,) wanted you to call an answering machine and leave your contact information to be informed when "the speaker hits the market." Are these just to cull contact information, is it Big Andy who shall not be named at work, is it a research project into credulity and vaporware?

spacehound's picture

Usually from some guy by himself in his garden shed. He places a couple of adverts, gets zero responses, runs out of money, and goes back to his regular job on the garbage truck.

It's the same with 'crowdfunding'.
The suckers who buy into that overlook that crowdfunding only happens because no sane bank or venture capital company will put a single cent into the guy's idea.